Title: Something Strange and Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard
Teen Reviewer: Irina Kustovskaya
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Something Strange and Deadly is a horror novel that revolves around the 16-year old protagonist, Eleanor Fitt, the daughter of a wealthy socialite family. She lives in a lavish house in 1878 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just after the Civil War. However, Philadelphia is being terrorized by resurrected corpses, and nobody knows why. These corpses, nicknamed The Dead, are apparently being controlled by an unknown necromancer. To make Eleanor’s life worse, her brother Elijah has not returned from a trip, and her whole family is worried sick. To seek help for her brother, Eleanor contacts the Spirit Hunters, a group of paranormal exterminators, and unofficially joins them. The matters get worse, the Dead get stronger, and Eleanor’s brother is nowhere to be found- worst of all, Eleanor has to please her family’s demands and live up to her family’s name. Will Elijah be found, and will the Dead be stopped?
Something Strange and Deadly is a novel by Susan Dennard, and is the first book in a trilogy of the same name. This is also Susan Dennard’s debut novel, so keep in mind that this is her very first published book (congrats to her!). She is a new author on the scene. The story itself is listed in the horror genre, but, to be honest, I did not find this book scary at all. Sure, the idea behind it was pretty terrifying- walking corpses are indeed freaky, but I do not feel as though this should be listed as a horror novel. This just wasn’t written scarily enough. SSaD was more of a mild horror story- so if you want to read something that is technically a horror story but isn’t too alarming- then this is for you. Also, SSaD is relatively long with a 400 page span. However, the story only took me about three days of intense reading (on a Kindle), so it shouldn’t take one that long to finish.
The storyline of SSaD was, overall something that had great potential but did not quite live up to my expectations. Normally, I wouldn’t reach for a story about walking corpses, but this one seemed promising, so why not? Personally, I did actually find the story interesting. However, the writing style didn't work for me. It seemed like something a high schooler would write for a contest. If I were her, I would have edited the story big time before I even thought about publishing it. First off, the writer’s style is choppy. The descriptive scenes are extremely limited; maybe two sentences at most described the setting and characters of the story (then again, she describes them over and over many times, so eventually you get the idea). The action scenes are poorly written and are very confusing to follow- it is more like a list of actions in paragraph form. To this day, I am still puzzled as to what happens in the final battle scene! The main protagonist’s name, Eleanor, is not revealed for several chapters.
In short; everything is told to us. There is hardly any suspense or thought involved in this story, which makes it an easy read. We never wonder, “what is going to happen next?” or “could this person be the villain?” because it is apparent very early on. I had no trouble figuring out the main plot and the other characters’ personalities, since they are all quite static. This, however, was a pretty nice break from my English class reading list of Dickens and Shakespeare, so I am very much thankful for the ease of this story.
Despite the clunky style, I could not put the book down. It is incredible how this book got to me! I first got it and read about 20 pages and put it down for a while. After that, I picked it back up, and could not leave my Kindle alone! I even snuck the Kindle out in some of my classes just so that I could read it. The poorly-written, overly piled action (seriously, in every single out of the 27 chapters, something has to happen. You will not see a chapter without some sort of event.) captivated me and I literally could not stop reading the book! Maybe I was just drawn in by the constant amount of stuff going on. I am quite confused as to how I disliked the style, but got pulled into the story, but since that is how it is, I would not question it and just enjoy the story.
Continuing on with the positives, the one aspect that I think Dennard completely nailed is the romance aspect. There is a sort of third-wheel type of romance in the story between Eleanor and Clarence Wilcox, a wealthy, eligible bachelor. Don’t worry, this is not a spoiler because this is one of those obvious givens. However, it does get quite interesting- I won’t spoil it here!- and Dennard leaves the readers hanging for a long time. The story would tease us about something that should happen, and yet it never does! This made me want to continue reading. The whole time the teasers showed up, I was screaming at my Kindle “Just kiss already!!” And it made me so happy when I was reading those love scenes that my heart was literally pounding. I am usually not one to overreact like this to love stories, but this book made me do it!!
Overall, the writing style did not work for me. It is chock full of choppy descriptions, confusing information, rushed action scenes and static characters. However, it is also one with an amazing love story which I will remember for a very long time. The plot is pretty original, too, and I will say I look forward to reading the second book in the trilogy as it comes out in July 2013. I already pre-ordered it!